My day in court as architect and expert witness…

Some of you may have seen my recent tweets today concerning being a witness in a District Court case. I don’t want to go into too much detail, suffice to say that is was related to property between an estranged couple. Therefore the following observations apply to all cases of this type and others of an architectural nature ( I also sat through two other cases (plumber/property developer dispute over work/unpaid invoice and a property dispute over commonage land). The observations are also of particular benefit to the architectural profession, so, here we go…

1. If you do end up as defendant or plaintiff, don’t defend yourself – just doesn’t look good and it may not look it at times but the solicitors and barristers are trained to do what they do – you are not. And at that, get a good legal team obviously.

2. Even if you are completely in the right, it still may be best for you to settle out of court – especially if the sums are quite small. For example, it may be better for you to give €500 as a ‘goodwill gesture’ rather than try and fight it in court with all the inherent costs involved. Don’t forget that as an architect with Professional Liability Insurance you would be liable to pay an excess no matter what the outcome.

3. If at all possible, stay out of court, the only winners are the solicitors & barristers who will win – win lose or draw.

4. If you are asked to be a witness, make sure you get full expenses for the time. You are giving up valuable time that could be spent on real, paying work.

5. I’ve frequently been asked to provide expert witness reports for court cases in Ireland (this was first occasion where I had to go to court); these reports take time (and money), somebody obviously has to pay for them – yet more expenses. If you’re an architect they come out of your PI (don’t forget that excess that you’ll need to pay win, lose or draw!), if you haven’t got insurance then you’ll have to pay for them out of your own pocket.

6. Most obviously of all, make sure as an architect you have up to date professional indemnity insurance that provides full cover for the work that you do. I heard a statistic somewhere ( I may be wrong so please correct me if so) that Ireland is the second most litigious society in the world after America ! People sure love to go to court here ! It’s also important to remember that this insurance needs to be continued even after you retire (run-off cover)

7. Be very careful out there, it’s a jungle !

8. My guess is that courts are inundated with cases of is type, now that money is shorter, people need to grab ever last penny; even if it means going to court to get it.

9. Without the risk of sounding sexist, the whole Barrister look is quite hot, I’m surprised fashion designers haven’t tried to channel it like they did with the pirate or military coat thing 😉

So returning to the case, it was settled out of court, I was never called and never got to take the stand (was looking forward to the bible and ‘tell the whole truth’ thing).

This blog post does not constitute legal advice and is for entertainment purposes only, so don’t sue me.

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